Harsh realities of Test cricket laid bare as Proteas weigh changes for second match
While understanding the context surrounding his team’s heavy defeat in the first Test against New Zealand, Shukri Conrad did not mask his bitter disappointment at the outcome.
“I told the players, it’s the Proteas that lost and it’s not OK. It’s tough for everyone here,” said the Test team’s head coach.
Conrad explained that the record 281-run defeat in four days provided a grim illustration of the “massive divide” that exists between first class cricket — in which the majority of the players have plenty of experience — and the Test format.
Though for the most part the players, who were given Thursday off, were fine, the brutal nature of Test cricket hit them hard. “They are in decent spirits. Obviously a few of them took a bit of a knock in terms of the harsh realities that Test cricket brings and possibly how far away they still are. Many felt they were closer to the Test side and then you go through a few days like they have been and that provides a jolt,” said Conrad.
“If it was a T20 game, you know one performance can win a game for you. (But) it’s five days of cricket where the pressure is relentless and you’ve got to be on top of your game all the time against a quality side.
“It's easy to say ‘go out and back yourself’, but when your every move is being magnified and your technique is being cut to shreds on TV ... those are the harsh realities of Test cricket. But the players will be better for the experience and I’m sure we’ll see an improved performance in (the second Test) Hamilton.”
While it would have been easy for New Zealand to take their foot off the pedal, Conrad was grateful the hosts didn’t relent in terms of execution and focus. “New Zealand showed us the greatest respect by going in to bat a second time, because that's what they would have done if they were playing Australia, England or a full-strength South African side. They did not patronise us, by playing it differently. They paid us all the respect in the world, they are treating it as Test cricket where they need to keep doing all their processes properly.”
Nevertheless, Conrad felt his team could have provided more. “I did expect a bolder showing, especially on the batting side. I felt we let ourselves down quite a bit,” he said.
The South African game plan involved dragging the match out as long as possible and seeing what day five might offer, hoping it would force New Zealand into error.
I think we did nicely on the bowling front given the stocks we have got. But we have to look at how else to challenge themShukri Conrad
But despite selecting seven batters, along with wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin, they only managed totals of 162 and 247, with David Bedingham’s second innings 87, the only half-century made by the tourists.
“We are expecting a lot from Zubayr Hamza, Keegan Petersen and Bedders, because they have a few Tests under their belt and have been around a bit longer than a few others.”
The bowling too lacked pace and penetration and Conrad said it is the area that will come under the most scrutiny before the second Test, that starts in Hamilton on Tuesday. “I think we did nicely on the bowling front given the stocks we have got. But we have to look at how else to challenge them. Yes, we must do so with the new ball, but perhaps we can do more with spin as well.”
With Conrad stating there would be changes for the second Test, either Dane Piedt or leg-spinner Shaun von Berg will be selected.
*New Zealand middle order batter Daryl Mitchell was withdrawn from their squad because of a foot injury. Fast bowler Will O’Rourke will join the squad as was previously planned.
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